With Uncle Bud, circa 1990: me, my brothers David and Andrew, and my sister Jessica.
With Uncle Bud, circa 1989: me, my brothers David and Andrew, and my sister Jessica.

Uncle Bud was named for his mother’s (Nelle) older brother, Gordon, who died young after being kicked in the stomach by a horse.

I remember Uncle Bud being extremely nice. He loved hugs and would bring us (his great-nieces and nephews) cool gifts. I still have my “Gretchen” rag doll from the early 1990s.

The Hansen Siblings, circa 1936: Charlene, Bud, Evelyn, and Lily.
The Hansen Siblings, circa 1936: Charlene, Bud, Evelyn, and Lily.

This story is from my Great Aunt Lily, my grandmother’s (Evelyn) little sister.

Uncle Eric remembers hearing a much more basic version of this story, no one else can confirm Aunt Lily’s version: Uncle Bud passed away in 1992, Grandma in 1993, and Aunt Charlene in 1999.

Dad doesn’t believe it to be true, calling the story “a family joke.” He’s sure that Aunt Lily embellished a story or made it up completely.

Aunt Lily was prone to telling tall tales. Very entertaining tall tales!

My brother was named Gordon, but everyone called him “Buddy.” He was my best friend. He took me to kindergarten on my first day, and he protected me fiercely from neighbor children who might not realize how “precious” I was. Buddy was short, chunky boy with white blond hair, long lashes, and from family pictures, very handsome, much better looking than his three sisters.

One of the tales told around the dining table was about the day the Gypsies stole Buddy.

This happened before I was born, when there was only Dad, Mother, my oldest sister Charlene, and Buddy. The family lived in Marquette, Nebraska, a little town along the Platte River.

One day, the neighbor ladies came screaming to Mother, telling her, “The Gypsies have stolen Buddy!”

In those days, Gypsies were known as thieves but were tolerated if they took their wagons down to camp by the river.

“Your mother,” Dad reported, “being a hit histrionic by nature, was hysterical before we got there.”

“Oh, you’re so smart,” she retorted. “What about you?”

Dad answered, “Well, I figured I’d trade with them.”

“Trade what?” Mother asked.

“Medicine for Buddy.”

When I heard the story, I was wide-eyed with respect for Dad and Buddy. The story goes that when Dad and Mother got there, they asked the Gypsies why they had taken Buddy.

“Because of his hair!” one of the elders answered.

I didn’t understand. “What was the matter with his hair?”

Mother answered, “It was bleached white from the sun. The gypsies had never seen such hair.”

I learned later that such hair was common to people in Marquette, Nebraska. Marquette was named for Marquette, Michigan, the home of Nordic immigrants, and the Swedes in Marquette, Nebraska, were also Isaacsens, Hanses, and Olafssens.

“Dad, what medicine did you trade?”

Dad smiled, “I looked into the eyes and ears, and down their throats and told them they out to use soap more often. I told them to come to my office if they needed medical attention and that I wouldn’t charge them. And they gave me Buddy.”

“Did they come?” I asked.

“No,” he said.

Mother retorted, “Well, they should have asked around. You never charge half of the farmers around here.”

Dad just sighed, “Yes, Nellie.”

Dad thinks that if this story was true, it would have been handled quickly (and probably brutally) by local law enforcement. What probably happened is that the Gypsies had commented on Bud’s hair, and maybe wanted to touch it.

The last part of the story does point to a truism of Great Grandpa Henry; everyone I’ve talked to about him (all of his children and my aunt and uncles) say that he was notoriously generous with his patients, though I am not sure if this was a bone of contention with his wife. Grandma (his daughter, Evelyn) often told stories about how her dad accepted payments of chickens and fresh produce; it was during the Great Depression in rural Nebraska, so I guess this is no surprise.